James and Ruth Harwood are long-time parishioners of St Barnabas. They first met in London in 1967 while living in the same building, Ruth flatting with her girlfriends in the basement, and James on the third floor with his mates.

Ruth had travelled to the UK in 1965 with her friend to work as a nurse in London. The two flatting groups would go out to parties and to the local pub and so they got to know each other. During the summer Ruth and her girlfriends took a 3-month trip to Europe and Scandinavia and while she was away, she stored her winter gear with James. When she came back Ruth and her friends ended up living in a different flat, but she kept in touch with James.

James spent nine years in the British Army as an electrical technician and was now working as a computer technician, he asked Ruth to marry him, and she said yes but he had to write to her father in New Zealand to get permission. They were married in 1968 and lived in Leigh, south of London for six years. Their first child Mark was born in Leigh and when he was 19 months old, they emigrated to New Zealand as James got a job as a computer tech in Christchurch in 1971. Their daughter Angela arrived in 1975. They first lived in Memorial Ave and then moved to a house in Watford Street which they bought from the Lorimers.

James was responsible for installing and maintaining New Zealand Customs first computer system at Christchurch Airport. After 23 years in the computer business, James moved to a company that made and repaired Wheelchairs, after two and a half years it closed, and James and a colleague started their own business making and repairing wheelchairs where he worked for 20 years. James said how much he enjoyed it as “you were making something that was useful and for the first time in my life people said thank you to me.” He remembers one time when a little girl came up to him and gave him a big slobbery kiss and hugged him for making her a wheelchair. “It really touched my heart.” He said if he sees a wheelchair now, he can tell if he made it by the welds.

James has had a great interest in trains, he began building locomotives in 1953 at the age of 15 and has won first prize in Gold Medal in NZ 1981, 1986, 1988, 1990 and at the Model Engineer Exhibition 1997 and1998. He even sold one of his engines at Christie’s, South Kensington Exceptional Scientific and Engineering Works of Art, Instruments, and Models in 1990. He has made many engines for various people over the years. He builds them from scratch, making the tiny pieces of the working engine, and says he spends thousands of hours building them.

I asked him what he got out of it, and his reply “I get a lot of frustration making it but then a great sense of achievement, I never give in, I battle it out until it is finished.” A pretty good motto for life, really!      Jo Cotton

By Jo Cotton